TIME OUT NEW YORK
You probably have a friend like Mark Moskowitz -- a person so obsessed with books that he can talk for hours about how he's chosen to arrange them on his shelves, who always has a new discovery he's pressing on you, who keeps a different book by his bedside, in his bathroom and on his desk. Or maybe you're that person.
If so, you'll have no problem understanding Moskowitz's fascination with an obscure novel called The Stones of Summer, by a writer named Dow Mossman. Moskowitz bought the book in 1972, when he was just 18, after reading an enthusiastic notice in The New York Times Book Review. It was touted as the seminal novel of his generation, but he couldn't get into it. Twenty-five years later, though, when he picked up his battered paperback edition again, he was electrified. He started looking around for someone to talk to about the book.
Trouble was, no one else had read it. He couldn't find any mention of Mossman on the Internet; the man had disappeared, never to publish again. Moskowitz, a successful director of political campaign commercials, decided to find him. A yearlong quest took him from New York to Colorado and finally to Iowa.
Moskowitz is a tremendously sympathetic figure, a regular guy who started reading with Harold and the Purple Crayon and just wasn't able to stop. His command of modern American literature and literary criticism is astonishing, especially because it was acquired through sheer hunger for books rather than any aspiration to erudition. Even more impressive is Moskowitz's ability to convey his boyish enthusiasm. When he tracks down the reviewer who prompted him to buy Stones all those years ago, he amazes the man by emptying out a box of thick, dog-eared volumes of American novels, and eagerly asking him what he thinks of each one. "You sure fit a lot in that box," says the aging critic.
Moskowitz has fit a lot into this movie as well. The search for the elusive Mossman provides a riveting narrative in itself, but there is much more here: meditations on the nature of genius, the relationship between author and reader, the value inherent in a humble package of paper and ink. Our charming, quickwitted guide spins it all together with the skill and perspicacity of a brilliant novelist, and Stone Reader is the cinematic equivalent of a great read. - Sarah Goodyear
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